I am grateful for the young people that I lead at Scum of the Earth Church because they keep me grounded in reality. The longer that you are a Christian, the greater is the danger of becoming insulated within the Christian culture. It happens almost imperceptibly. You get saved when you are young yourself, and you start hanging out with Christians. Then, perhaps, your old friends exclude you—or maybe you can’t handle their sinful lifestyles so you exclude your old friends. Either way, you start hanging out with Christians, and it is great—for the most part. Perhaps you get married; and if you do, you are one further step removed from the rest of the world because you are now supposed to be building a home together. That takes a lot of time away from the bright lights of the big city. Then you may have kids, and have even less time. Often both of you are working regular jobs every day, plus serving on committees and otherwise involved in church life. You can’t believe that you are surviving on so little sleep and are increasingly removed from any reality outside of your own little Christian bubble.
Scum of the Earth Church, however, is an outpost on the perimeter of God’s Kingdom. The young folks at Scum have often just come in from the world outside of Christian culture. I am thus in touch with the outside world whether I want to be or not. Through them, I always know about the music scene, the art scene, the film scene, the poetry scene, the comic book scene, the economic/political scene, and every other scene.
This cross-generational thing is the way that I came to Jesus. Older adults sowed the word of God into me, and their work produced fruit in my life. Now, I am being asked to do the same with the generations behind me.
For example, young adults need help working out the difficulties of marriage. My wife, Mary, and I are no strangers to marital difficulties. We talk about those years freely. Young people at Scum know that we have not always gotten along well; they also know our stories (once tramatic for us but now humorous to them). Part of the reason for our transparency about those times is that we don’t want them to make the same mistakes that we did; but if they do, they must not lose hope. Why? Because this generation is in danger, not only of suffering the repercussions of divorce, but of wounding the generations yet to come when they do not persevere in their own marriages. Once, when Mary and I were sharing during a sermon at Scum one night, a visitor, a young woman, was so touched by my wife’s candidness that she said to herself, “I have to get to know this woman!” It is our prayer that her own marriage (to an Englishman, by the way) is strengthened through the sharing of our weakness.
There is a pride that goes with youth. When I got married as a young man, I thought that my wife had a great catch on her hands. It bewildered me that she did not understand that fact. Once, when Mary and I were were stuck in the middle of what seemed a never-ending argument, we phoned our older-and-wiser pastor for help. I’ll never forget the moment he said, “Mary, could you get off your extension for a moment? I want to talk to Michael privately.”
I thought to myself, “This is great. He’s going to talk to me man-to-man about how unreasonable my wife is being.” What a shock I got when he said to me, instead, “Brother, you are in pride. You’ve got to take a step down, right now. Remember, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ (1 Peter 5:5)”
These are the kinds of lessons that are learned from an older life that is well lived-out before God. Our lives are shown to be like broken pieces of pottery. We older folks have a responsibility to pass on the fact that we are all broken and all in need of a Savior. After all these years, I am more acutely aware of my sins than when I was in my twenties. In summary, the generations need one another. Churches are not complete as a body of Christ if a whole tier of adults—ages 18 to 35—is missing.
MIKE SARES: Mike is the pastor of Scum of the Earth Church in Denver, Colorado. Except for a handful of people his own age, the church is (on average) 30 years younger than he and his wife, Mary. He tweets @